I have to admit to a past jealousy of Catholics on Ash Wednesday. As a teenager on Long Island, New York, half of the school left early every Thursday (Church School) and, on a certain Wednesday in the Spring, would come back from lunch with an ashen cross on their foreheads.
One of the coolest middle schoolers I knew, Courtney, tossed her crazy blonde afro curls and, cross blazing, asked me if I was going to Ken’s party on Saturday. My gaze on the dark smudge, I answered vaguely. She asked me if something was wrong, but I was too intimidated by the brand to ask.
But I wanted one.
It was like some secret club, but those of us without ashes couldn’t work up the preteen courage to ask about. As an adult I don’t see a Biblical reason for it, (and it frankly smacks too loud of Pharisaic piety) though I do see the value in marking the Lenten season with some form of meditation or spiritual discipline.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Lenten season in the Catholic church. Other denominations celebrate some parts of it, but the Catholic church really gets into it, going all out. Based on the Old Testament practice of mourning and showing your contrition by throwing ashes on your head, in the Catholic rite the faithful attend mass and are marked with ashes on the forehead as a sign of their penitence.
The forty days until Easter are to be spent in meditation and fasting. Many people, even if they’re not big-C catholic, “give up” something as a way of denying themselves and refocusing on their priorities. Several bloggers I read are giving up blogging (the horror!). The idea is to give up the material or earthly thing you think you can’t live without, to discover why it is you can’t live without it.
Since R is Catholic, we’ll be attending Mass. We’ll also be fasting from meat on Fridays. I’d also like to incorporate some readings from the Word and perhaps nightly family prayer.
Any ideas for Lent? Are you giving something up?